Ballet Shoes: A Buying Guide
Considering buying a pair of ballet shoes and overwhelmed by the available choice online? Stelle have compiled a comprehensive ballet shoes buying guide that covers the topic from basics material, fit, and full sole vs. split sole ballet shoes.
What are Ballet Shoes made of?
Ballet shoes are light, round-toed shoes that are most commonly made from materials like canvas, leather or satin. These shoes have no heel and have a flexible sole that is used for ballet dancing specifically. They are often available in pink, white, ivory, nude and black.
While both male and female dancers wear ballet shoes, only female dancers wear pointe shoes, but pointe shoes are normally given to dancers from age 11 or 12 upwards whom have been practicing ballet dance for many years. The difference between pointe shoes and ballet shoes are the box and the shank at the front part of the ballet shoes.
What are the different parts of ballet shoes called?
- Drawstring: The drawstring surrounds the top part of the ballet shoes. It covers an elastic which can be tied at the top-center of your foot.
- Elastics: These are pieces of elastic sewn onto each ballet shoe to ensure the most secure fit.
- Ribbon: The ribbon is usually attached to pointe shoes, but also available on some flat ballet shoes for performances or exams. Ribbons are tied around the ankle to help secure the ballet shoes.
- Sole: Soles are located at the bottom of the ballet shoes often are made from suede. Beginners are usually recommended to wear a full sole and then advance to a split sole ballet shoe.
- Box: It is the front part of a pointe shoe. It is a hard box that covers the toes in a pointe shoe. The box is made of compacted fabrics (usually cardboard and paper) hardened by glue and help to support the dancers' toes and joints.
- Platform: The flat part that's in the pointe shoe which allows you to dance end pointe.
- Vamp: It is the length of the box from the toe to the shoe throat. It encases the box and platform on a pointe shoe.
- Insole/Shank: It is the inner part a sole, material that serves as a stiff sole.
- Throat: The part at which the shoe opens.
A Brief History of Ballet Shoes
The word ‘Ballet’ was established in the 17th century and comes from the Italian ‘Ballere’ meaning ‘to dance.’ Although it originated in Italy, ballet was soon recognized in the French royal courts in 1559 when Italian Catherine De Medici married the French King Henry II. And it was later popularized by King Louis XIV who was the King of France from 1643 to 1715.
Women began ballet dancing in 1682, when ballet shoes still had heels. Years later, in the mid-18th century, the popular Paris Opera ballet dancer Marie-Annie Camargo paved the way for dancers everywhere by taking the heels off her dance shoes. Camargo was an innovator in other ways, rejecting the restrictive costumed dancers of the time wore.
Marie Taglioni (23 April 1804 – 22 April 1884) was a Swedish ballet dancer of the Romantic ballet era, a central figure in the history of European dance. She was very famous for performing La Sylphide, which was the first performance without wires and was the start of people dancing ‘on their toes’. It was considered a huge step forward in ballet and is what made ballet more like it is today.
The much-loved 20th century Russian born Anna Pavlova (famous for The Dying Swan) popularised ballet dancing across the globe. Pavlova had extremely arched steps and slender feet which meant the traditional Ballet slippers put added pressure on her toes and ankles. To solve her problems, this innovator created the modern-day pointe shoe, complete with supportive shank and box.
Which fabric is best for ballet shoes?
|Leather||Improves young and inexperienced dancers’ foot strength.
|Leather ballet shoes are usually the most expensive fabric choice.|
Easier to clean than leather, as canvas ballet shoes can be put into the washing machine.
Less expensive than leather.
Don’t take as long to be broken in.
|Canvas ballet shoes are less durable than leather ballet shoes.|
Satin ballet shoes with ribbons and are often the preferred choice for children’s performance exams and competitions.
Aesthetically pleasing: flatters the line of the foot.
|Satin ballet shoes wear out quicker than canvas and leather ballet shoes.|
- Canvas ballet shoes are typically used for split sole ballet shoes as this fabric moulds to the ballet dancer’s feet and helps to accomplish the split sole’s purpose of emphasizing arches.
- Satin ballet shoes are most commonly used for performances.
- Leather ballet shoes are typically used for full sole ballet shoes, which are used for young dancers.
Which Ballet shoes are best for beginners?
Ballet shoes or ballet slippers are the only shoes that should be worn by beginners. There is some debate over what type of ballet shoes beginners should choose when they first started: some dance teachers believe that a full sole is the most appropriate option.
Once students reach the higher vocational ballet exams, those soft blocks become a compulsory shoe for the exam with many exam boards. Pointe shoes and soft pointe shoes should be professionally fitted in person.
Demi-pointe type of ballet shoes has a full leather outer sole, meaning they have more resistance than a normal shoe. However, some dance teachers argue that demi-pointe shoes can hide technical faults such as young dancers clawing their toes. The purpose of demi-pointe shoes is to force the dancer to work harder and therefore strengthen the muscles of their foot, preparing them for pointe shoes. Many dance teachers will also give students additional exercises during the lesson to improve foot and ankle strength (such as with an exercise band). Foot strengthening exercises may also be given to be practiced at home, too.
Always consult your dance teacher about their preferred type of ballet shoes for your level, as well as their preferred color.
Split Sole VS. Full Sole
|Split Sole||Flatters the line of the foot.
Allows greater flexibility and technique.
More aesthetic during performances.
|Split sole ballet shoes have less arch support.|
|Full Sole||More resistant than a split-Sole shoe, therefore, builds foot muscles||Full sole ballet shoes can make bad technique less obvious to the teacher such as clawed toes.|
How to measure feet for Ballet shoes?
Follow our handy shoe size guide on each product page. Stelle always recommends ordering one size larger than your streetwear shoe size. Below is a guide on how to measure your foot:
- Stick a piece of paper on the ground using sticky tape.
- Step on the paper and ask a friend to trace around your foot.
- Use a ruler to measure the length/width of your foot.
- Apply these figures to our ballet shoes size guide.